Monday, November 9, 2009

Rightsizing is the New Downsizing

There comes a time in every young Sith apprentice's life when he or she must decide to turn on the master and kill him/sell him out to the Jedi/decimate his sweet Google Analytics stats by diverting web traffic to her new blog. That time is now: Laura has just started her own blog, Combreviations, where she will talk about... whatever she wants. Fear not, gentle readers: she'll still be doing the weekly round-ups here at PMN. You just have significantly more content to read every week. Hooray for you, and congratulations, Laura!

Speaking of Laura's new blog—or, more specifically, the content of her first post—if you haven't heard, Walden is being "right-sized" to 130 stores (down from around 330). Now, it'd be easy to go a little nuts and declare this another nail in the Borders coffin (for those not in the know, Borders owns Walden), but I don't think this is the case. Here's why:

· While I think decreased foot traffic through malls (vis-à-vis the recession) has been partly responsible for the decision, you have to realize that these stores have been on their way out for nearly a decade. Borders has been steadily reducing the Walden store count since 2001 in an effort to increase efficiency and profitability, and if pushing the count down to 130 stores helps them do this, then I encourage it—although I am sorry for anyone losing a job due to the restructuring. My good thoughts are with you (yes, I occasionally have good thoughts).
· Theoretically (and according to the company), this "right-sizing" will allow Borders to finally fully integrate Walden into their computer system, which will be a huge relief for everyone in the industry currently having to juggle the separate (and oft-incompatible) Borders and Walden systems. This alone will contribute considerably to increased efficiency in title (re)orders, getting titles listed in the computer system, and so on.
· Barnes & Noble is making a similar move with their B. Dalton mall stores, which indicates to me it's more of a "mall book store" problem than a chain-specific one. With the rise of e-books imminent and the current print-book market currently split between the the superstores, Amazon, mass merch retailers, and large independents, there's not much room left for the mall folks, and that limited space is shrinking fast. I'm not even sure I know anyone who buys books in a mall anymore.

What do you think?


  1. Congratulations, Laura! Word of caution: do not build your blog at a mall.

  2. It's a lovely phrase, isn't it? Right-sizing. As in we're sorry, but the company with you was just the wrong size. I'm sure it's a great comfort to those employees of 200 some stores.

    You'd think with the current climate being what it is, they'd find a little less bitchy way of putting it when they have to turn several thousand people out into the street. Sigh.

  3. Does anyone still shop at the mall? I mean, besides my mother-in-law, the original professional shopper.

    And Borders is still around?? They closed up shop, pulled up stakes and haven't been seen round these parts in a loooong time.

  4. The funny thing in Rockford, IL our B&N moved and built an anchor store in the mall causing Waldenbook to close. We have a standalone Borders in the same plaza as Best Buy. After B&N vacated their store our public library moved into the old B&N store.

    I've always liked Borders a little more (it's fairly close to my home). I frequently buy books there because the supply me with a steady supply of coupons in my email. I have an Amazon Prime account and get free two day shipping, but I try to buy local when I can. If only they could compete with Amazon on music and movies.

  5. We have a Borders and a B&N in my town. Maybe's it the layout, the rich green paint, the famous writers on the walls to greet you or the Starbuck's but Barnes and Noble always gave me a better buying experience. But that's the snob in me.

    Although Border's does offer much better deals. I think the kiss of death for Borders has always been $25 DVDs and $18 CD's, which was recently cut out of the stores. The one by my house is using the space for a HUGE Young Adult section which in my opinion is awesome.

    Bookstores in malls are a dying breed, which makes me weep inside. Bookstores in the mall gave the mall itself a sense of elevated intelligence. Yes, you could buy a g-string, tacky clothes at Forever 21 and a piece of crap CD, but at least you could balance that out by buying a copy of Emma by Jane Austin.

    I still buy 50% of my books in stores and the other 50% on-line. But it seems like I'm a dying breed, like Borders.

  6. The enclosed mall is the deadest shopping area in our town. If it were my business I'd move ... or in corporate-USA, close down the unprofitable sites.

    On a happy note, I look foreword to reading more of Laura's thinking.

  7. To be honest, I thought Borders had already closed the entire chain, so this isn't so much a sign of Borders' demise as it is a shock. I'm surprised they didn't take this step a year ago.

    As for Borders' demise, it is imminent. I'm a Borders loyalist. I buy almost all my books from Borders. With my borders rewards zone coupons, I've bought a number of movies and boxed sets there too. When I was younger, it was the only store I could go to and find George Carlin CDs.

    The place is dying. In the last year, the store has reduced its operating hours twice, dumped a lot of its inventory (more than once causing a panic among customers that thought they were closing shop), and increased its discounting.

    This last one is the tell. I've been a Borders member for years and in addition the Borders Bucks I'd earn for buying stuff there, I would get coupons emailed to me. They bounced between 20%-30% off. Except for the "biggun." Just before Christmas, they'd sound out the 40% coupons (40% off books, 40% DVD boxed sets, etc). This was the coupon to hold out for because it /would/ come (just hope what you want is still in stock). This year? If the pace continues, I will receive 10 40% off coupons. Not two, ten.

    Borders is on life support. It will be Barnes & Noble vs. Amazon in less than five years (and that's being generous).

    And for all my Borders loyalty? My investment in a Nook will start putting my dollars to Barnes & Noble.

  8. Um, in reference to a comment up-thread, buying at Borders is NOT buying local. Buying local means supporting locally-owned businesses, not chains.
    -A sales rep

  9. does buying at Borders count as local if you live in Ann Arbor?

  10. I can put a little light on the issue from a Waldenbooks employee whose store ISN'T closing: I'm thrilled.

    This may sound mean, but hear me out: we have registers and computer programs from 1992. I'm not kidding. They refurbish out parts instead of fixing them, they give us no open budget for repairs, etc, because there were just too many of us not making enough money. With reduced numbers, only keeping the higher traffic more profitable stores, the ones who are left can actually get equipment that works and hours for our employees and some money to fix the hole in our ceiling (I'm not joking about that).

  11. Waldenbooks only, or does that "walden" umbrella apply to Borders Express stores? Or are those 130 remaining waldenbooks going to become Borders Expresses in the conversion, adding to the Borders Express total?

    did any of that make sense?

  12. All we had in the way of bookstores in our town was the Walden's in the mall and the Borders across the road. I think I bought a magazine once in Waldens. I hate the mall. Avoid it like the plague. I've spent a small fortune in Borders but the majority of my books and DVD's come from Amazon. I know as consumers we should support local retailers when we can but you just can't beat the prices at places like Amazon and these days every penny counts.

  13. Right-sizing. More Newspeak...

    Congrats Laura!

  14. If Borders had done this years ago, it would have been a good business move. That they're doing it now, smacks more of desperation. There are so many signs that this company is poorly run.

  15. There was a time when I bought all my books in a mall store, but that was in a town where that was the ONLY bookstore, a B. Dalton that is now closed, and they built a freestanding B&N across the street that is now the only bookstore.

    But even after I moved to a real city, I never went to the mall without visiting the Waldenbooks. Even if I'd had a depressing shopping experience where no store had anything I liked in my size and even the things in my size didn't fit, I could find something that fit in the bookstore. That was back in the days of a mass-market paperback selling for around $5, so I could pick up several without feeling like I'd splurged. Now, I generally have to make a special trek to visit a bookstore. It's not something I do on a whim.

    Then again, I don't remember the last time I went to a mall.

  16. I went to Borders' funeral last week. It was really sad. We all said a few rosaries at the wake.

    Amazingly, that bitch, Amazon, was there-- I can't believe she had the audacity to show her face after everything she did to poor old Borders.

  17. Buying chain may not be buying local in commercial speak, but it keeps the store open and the jobs available which allows more spending in the community. It sure supports the community a hell of a lot more than amazon buying.

  18. I have fond memories of years ago, when B. Dalton and Waldens were the only place I could reliably find certain genre titles and authors. The local bookstore was spotty at best, and getting to the mall as a teen was easier in some ways. Theirs was the first reward/frequent buyer clubs I joined.

    Now, the big boxes have all but pushed out the mall stores (and most of the local bookstores, some of which have ironically gotten better). Amazaon et al may be pushing the boxes some, but I don't think their demise is imminent -- at least, I hope it isn't. There's still something about being able to walk into a brick and mortar store, wander through the new releases, find interesting titles by chance on the shelves, and watch as my kids discover new treasures in their own reading section that you just can't get on-line. Plus, until Amazon can deliver a hot cup of coffee and a scone to me at my desk while I browse their site, I'm not convinced that ordering on line is superior to walking home with a couple of new worlds under my arm.

  19. I've wondered how these little mall bookstores do compared to the larger bookstores in malls--like the occasional Borders or Barnes and Noble or Books-a-Million that's attached to a mall. These have, admittedly, always seemed more inviting to me than the smaller WaldenBooks stores, given that they have the nice café area, spots to cozy in and read, more selection, better lighting... So I wonder if this has more to do with what consumers want in a bookstore experience, considering that the Borders, B&N, and smaller indie bookstores in my town are always hopping (and serving coffee and tea...)